Focusing on Quality Over Quantity: Nutrition Basics
During your pregnancy, keep in mind this important mantra: quality over quantity. You are already going to feel overwhelmed with many different decisions during the course of your pregnancy, so keep your nutrition straightforward and in tune with what your body is needing. Most importantly, aim for progress, not perfection.
Incorporate and add in variety when you can, but also be gentle with yourself, practicing mindfulness of the foods that you are choosing to put into your body. If you are able to eat small, frequent meals/snacks throughout the day and aim for a variety of the key macronutrients: healthy fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, chances are that you are feeding your body (and baby) appropriately. Most importantly, enjoy your food and try to eat intuitively. There will be time for salads and ice cream - all foods fit!
First, let's better understand the basics of pregnancy nutrition.
Pregnancy is one of the most exciting, vulnerable, momentous experiences of your life. The journey you are embarking on will carry you through a myriad of emotions, memories, and sentiments that will forever change you as a woman. The minute that positive sign appears on your pregnancy test, your mind is flooded with an immense number of decisions of how you will care for and bring your baby into this world.
Understanding the magnitude of what you are undertaking can certainly be overwhelming, but many women find pregnancy a compelling force to make positive changes for a healthy pregnancy and thriving environment for their baby. With information readily available at our fingertips, the decisions you make on how to best nourish your body and baby during your pregnancy can be confusing at times.
With the rapid changes your body and baby are undergoing through various stages of pregnancy, your needs for certain nutrients will also increase. Here are some important nutrients that will support your body’s needs during your pregnancy and allow your baby to thrive:
A key component in preventing birth defects, this B vitamin is crucial for promoting normal neural development in your baby. The good news is that many foods are natural sources of folate, including leafy green vegetables, beans/peas, citrus foods, nuts, as well as whole-grain pastas and cereals.
Because your blood volume expands during pregnancy to support your baby’s growth and development, your need for iron also increases. Sufficient iron stores can help prevent anemia, as well as decrease risk for preterm delivery. Aim for lean red meat, as well as fish and poultry. Other food iron-food sources include leafy-green vegetables and legumes.
We commonly hear how important calcium is for our bones and teeth, but what about babies in the womb? Calcium is just as an important nutrient for your baby’s development, as well as your own muscular and nervous systems. Ensure your body is getting adequate calcium by including a variety of dairy products, like yogurt, cheese, and milk, as well as non dairy sources, such as spinach, broccoli, salmon, and fortified juices.
Protein breaks down in the body into units called amino acids. These building blocks are essential for supporting cell growth and development for both you and your baby, especially in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. All animal-based foods are rich sources of iron, including poultry, eggs, beef, dairy products, and seafood. Plant-based foods, such as beans, nuts, legumes, and seeds can also offer needed protein.
This crucial vitamin is also another essential component to bone growth and development and can be helpful in combating risk of preeclampsia, preterm birth, and gestational diabetes. Incorporating foods like naturally fatty fish (like salmon), eggs, and milk will give your body and baby the Vitamin D needed to support a healthy pregnancy - along with regular enjoyment of fresh air and sunshine!
In the face of changing diet trends, food rules, and countless “old wives” tales, remember that optimizing nutrition should be viewed as what you can enjoy, what tastes and feels good, and how to nourish you and your baby with a variety of foods. Simply put, your pregnancy is laying the building blocks that will create a healthy foundation for yourself and your baby.
The good news is that your body is your best guide in navigating through your pregnancy journey, and keying in to how you are feeling and honoring what your body needs is a helpful place to start. Incorporating wholesome foods into your diet during pregnancy can help ensure that your baby has the nutrients needed to grow and thrive.